Make Your Editor Cry: Aisle vs. Isle

Make Your Editor Cry:  Aisle vs. Isle

Aisle originated from the late Middle English ele or ile and from Old French ele both of which descended from the Latin ala meaning “wing.” The spelling change in the seventeenth century was due to confusion with isle and influenced by French aile meaning, um, “wing.”

Isle originated from Middle English ile which descended from the Latin insula meaning “island.” The spelling of isle with the added S is due to that Latin influence and is identical to fifteenth century French.

Aisle is used as a noun in English language where it describes a passage between rows of seats in a building such as a church, theater, or on an aircraft or train. It can also just refer to a narrow passageway with similar objects that aren’t chairs to either side, such as an aisle in a bookstore, grocery store, or flea market. In architecture, (specifically in a cathedral) a lower part parallel to the nave, choir, or transept, from which it is divided by pillars is known as the aisle.


The musical had the audience dancing in the aisles.
She wandered down the aisle, filling up her shopping cart.

An isle, on the other hand is used as a noun in English language where it means an island, especially a small one, in the middle of a body of water.


The towering presence of the Mount Yeoti volcano watches over the town of Niseko, the jewel of Japan’s most northerly isle.

| The ship set ground on the shore |
| Of this uncharted desert isle |
| With Gilligan, the skipper too… |

Propose marriage to the person you’re stranded on a desert isle with and maybe you’ll march down the aisle together after you’re rescued.

Tip: An aisle is something that you find on an airplane. Both of these words start with “AI.” An isle is an island. Both of these words start with “IS.”

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